Turkey’s ‘big four’ are set for the Super Final
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
AA photoTurkish football will enter a two-derby-per-week period for the next one-and-a-half months, now that the Super Final draws have been made in the Spor Toto Super League. After the regular season was wrapped up with games over the weekend, the championship and Europa League playoffs were set yesterday.
The six-week playoff stage, or Super Final, starts with last year’s top two teams, Fenerbahçe and Trabzonspor, facing each other, and Beşiktaş hosting regular season leader Galatasaray this weekend, making the playoffs an arena where the “big four” of Turkish football will meet. According to the newly-imposed playoff rule, the top four teams enter the title race with their regular season points halved.
The next four teams, Istanbul BB, Eskişehirspor, Sivasspor and Bursaspor, will also play in another group, the Europa League playoffs, after finishing in the fifth through eighth spots in the regular season. The winner of that stage will meet the fourth-place team of the championship playoffs for a preliminary round spot in the second-tier European competition.
The playoff rule was introduced by former Turkish Football Federation (TFF) chairman Mehmet Ali Aydınlar, whose short spell at the top of Turkish football was marred by the match-fixing scandal. Aydınlar admitted that the playoffs were devised “to make people talk about sports for a change,” at a time when players, officials and coaches from about a dozen teams are involved in the match-fixing investigation.
However, as the season progressed, the playoffs started to draw criticism, especially from runaway leader Galatasaray. The Lions would have been celebrating their 18th league title had the playoff rule not been created, and they have also seen their nine-point lead over Fenerbahçe cut to five. “The playoffs are like a rock fell on our heads,” Galatasaray Chairman Ünal Aysal said at one point in the season.
However, the current TFF chairman, Yıldırım Demirören, has announced that there will be playoffs next season as well.
With three teams still hoping to win the title in a good six-week run, and all of the clubs, as well as the official broadcaster, benefitting from the derby frenzy, it is easy to see why.